Gernikako Arbola

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Not to be confused with the namesake Basque anthem. For the song, see Gernikako Arbola (anthem).
The "new tree".
The trunk of the "Old Tree".

Gernikako Arbola ("the Tree of Gernika" in Basque) is an oak tree that symbolizes traditional freedoms for the Biscayan people, and by extension for the Basque people as a whole. The Lords of Biscay (including kings of Castile and Carlist pretenders to the throne) swore to respect the Biscayan liberties under it, and the modern Lehendakari of the Basque Country swears his charge there.

The tree[edit]

In the Middle Ages, representatives of the villages of Biscay would hold assemblies under local big trees. As time passed, the role of separate assemblies was superseded by the Guernica Assembly in 1512, and its oak would acquire a symbolic meaning, with actual assemblies being held in a purpose-built hermitage-house (the current building is from 1833). It was the Spanish regent Maria Christina accompanied by her infant daughter Queen Isabella II the last Spanish monarch to swear an oath to the charters under the iconic oak in 1839.

The known specimens[1] form a dynasty:

  • "the father", planted in the 14th century, lasted 450 years
  • the "old tree" (1742–1892), re-planted in 1811. The trunk now is held in a templet in the surrounding garden.
  • the third (1858–2004), re-planted in 1860, survived the Bombing of Guernica in 1937 but had to be replaced because of a fungus. The gardeners of the Biscayan government keep several spare trees grown from the tree's acorns.
  • the fourth (1986-2015) was replanted on the site of its father on 25 February 2005. It died of a humidity related disease on 15 January 2015.
  • the fifth was planted in March 2015, aged 14.

The tree's significance is illustrated by an event which occurred shortly after the Guernica bombings. When the Francoist troops took the town, the Tercio of Begoña, formed by Carlist volunteers from Biscay, put an armed guard around the tree to protect it against the Falangists, who had wanted to fell this symbol of Basque nationalism.[2]

An oak tree is depicted on the heraldic arms of Biscay and subsequently on the arms of many of the towns of Biscay. An oak leaf logo is being used by the local government of Biscay. The logo of the Basque nationalist party Eusko Alkartasuna has one half red and the other green, the colors of the Basque flag. An old version of the logo of the nationalist youth organisation Jarrai also display oak leaves.

The Basque authorities present descendants of the tree as a symbol of friendship to Basque diaspora groups and related cities.

Bizkaikoarmarri.svg Eusko Alkartasuna (logo).jpg Escudo de Gernika Lumo.svg Ehu logo.svg
Arms of Biscay The Eusko Alkartasuna party logo The coat of arms of Gernika-Lumo The logo of the University of the Basque Country
with Chillida's interpretation of the oak
The oak leaves and acorns around the coat of arms of the Basque Country are another reference to the tree.

Other fuero trees in Biscay[edit]


  1. ^ El Mundo, 26 February 2005, Otro árbol de Gernika
  2. ^ An interview with Jaime del Burgo Torres, the captain that ordered the guard. Allegedly from El Mundo (31 October 2005).

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°18′53″N 2°40′47″W / 43.31472°N 2.67972°W / 43.31472; -2.67972